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In conversation with Dr Patrick Finney

Patrick's background

Patrick has a BA in International History and Politics and a PhD in International History from the University of Leeds. In 2002 he moved to Aberystwyth where he is now Reader in International History. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Executive Committee of the British International History Group. His research interests range widely across twentieth century international history, collective memory, and theory and method in historical writing. He is currently writing a book on the global collective memory of the Second World War since the end of the Cold War for Oxford University Press and during 2012-2013 is a Visiting Fellow at St Peter’s College, Oxford.

Being a peer reviewer

Patrick recently served as Director of Research in his Department and in this capacity encouraged colleagues to develop funding bids and helped them draft their grant applications. So when the Nominations Call for the Peer Review College (PRC) came, it seemed like a natural progression to seek greater involvement in the process at the Research Council level.

At Patrick’s Higher Education Institution (HEI) a PRC model has recently been introduced, with peer review taking place at two levels. At Departmental level an internal peer review process is now mandatory and the Director of Research and other colleagues with peer review experience have to read and approve all applications. There is a second level of scrutiny at institutional level, though this takes different forms depending on the nature and destination of the individual application. These sifting processes not only improve the quality of particular applications but also help raise general awareness of best practice across the university. Patrick hopes that his experience as a member of the PRC will contribute to the future development of the institutional model at Aberystwyth saying: The AHRC peer review process is a really effective mechanism for sharing best practice.

Patrick found the PRC Induction training an excellent experience for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was a good opportunity to meet fellow reviewers and to help build a sense of community. Secondly, talking to other reviewers about how they and their institutions handled grant applications helped to develop a sense of best practice in research management. Thirdly, the experience of reading a batch of grant proposals helped to reinforce understanding of what makes a high-quality proposal. Lastly, the mock panel was very illuminating and delivered valuable insights into how grants are actually awarded. Speaking about the mock panel Patrick says: I now have a better sense of who you are actually addressing when you write a review, making it much easier to write effective ones. In particular, I understand the need as a reviewer to evidence everything I write.

Patrick anticipates that with more peer review experience, he may acquire a more formal role in cascading information and developing best practice at his HEI; he also expects that the whole experience will not only be valuable to his professional development but that it will also provide greater variety in his day-to-day work.